Navigation in Web Design

The tools for web design and hence the web pages that we eventually create out of it has evolved through time. Back then, website design needed only a few things: a text editor to edit the html mark-up, and a browser to test the design on. But now, we have a dizzying array of web design IDEs and tools, and everyone has learned to leverage the power of more complex and dynamic web development languages: dynamic html and AJAX. But as the tools and web pages become complex, web designers who offer web design services become more and more prone to creating confusing navigation for their web design. It is therefore important to know the basic rules of navigation design.

A good navigation creates a cohesive “story” for the site, and this provides an excellent experience for the user. A carefully-designed global navigation answers the following questions of the user:

  • Where am I?
  • Where can I go?
  • Where have I been?

The first question means that your navigation should provide a clear context to the user, such that he will know where he is in your site.

The second question is a guideline about links. Global navigation should include carefully-chosen links and the number of it, as too much of it can confuse the user, while too little of it can make the user feel helpless in your site.

The third question is best answered by one very important element in your navigation: breadcrumbs. However you address this question, it is important that you should give the user an idea of the places in your site that he/she has been to. Changing the colour of visited links is one important aspect of this.

No matter how “complex” your site is, it is very important to design a smart and usable global navigation for the user.

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